THE O’NEILL government announced new measures in October to crack down on “wasteful spending” by the public sector, with “unnecessary” workshops and conferences in the firing line.

The changes, to target health and education, were described in a government press release as “cost saving measures to ensure rural people do not miss out on these vital services”.

The government said the Education Department headed the list of “workshop conductors”, with 191 held in 2013 at a cost of over K15 million.

The Health Department conducted 37 workshops last year at a cost of over K1.5 million, the government statement said.

Chief Secretary to government Sir Manasupe Zurenuoc said the education and health departments held workshops frequently.

“Some of those workshops are mandatory like examinations and standards and so forth but we can do without some of those workshops,” he said.

“I am sick and tired of teachers leaving the classrooms and coming to workshops. We will only ask teachers to come if it has relevance to their work – teachers should be spending time in schools.”

Sir Manasupe said in many provinces teachers were being told to participate in irrelevant workshops.

“We are wasting our kids’ time, similarly with health workers, a lot of workshops, we end up having nurses from rural health centres attending,” he said.

“Sometimes we are really denying our people in the bush so we are mindful of education and health and the effect they have on our people in the districts and we are monitoring that very carefully,” he said.

Sir Manasupe said he expected a major drop in next year’s attendance figures for such events.

“We are only allowing [employees to attend] relevant workshops…otherwise no,” he said.

Sir Manasupe said the government had been footing 85 per cent of all costs, which totalled K26 million, for all workshops, with the balance being made up by donor organisations.

He provided details on the 285 workshops that were held with government support in 2013.

These included 17 by the Internal Revenue Commission at a cost of K576,740, three by the Teaching Service Commission for K404,702, one by the National Economic & Fiscal Commission for K400,000, two by the Department of Prime Minister and National Executive Council for K364,000, four meetings for the Department of Environment and Conservation for K362,210, three meetings by Provincial Affairs for K360,540, three for the Registry of Political Parties at K300,000, and one workshop for PNG Customs at K387,454.

Sir Manasupe said some agencies, including the PNG Forest Authority, Office of Higher Education, and the National Maritime Safety Authority, among others, held one workshop each for a total cost of K1,448,022.